AUTHOR EDIT - I name dropped the model based upon the paperwork that was furnished upon delivery of the vehicle, I won’t mention the company name, but I suppose I should have ran the VIN to verify the model to be exact. I don’t claim to be an expert on this vehicle, however many of the commenters own these and I totally admit that I indeed may have been very incorrect and I apologize for any discrepancies, I assure you they were not intentional.

I’ve spent the better part of three days with an orange 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, and I’ve finally come to an informed conclusion; it has many weaknesses.

A Quick Overview

The Hyundai Santa Fe Sport isn’t really sporty at all, the name “Sport” is used to denote that this is indeed the smaller Santa Fe. The Sport model is said to seat five, versus the full sized Santa Fe that will seat seven. Thankfully I learned this quickly, because the cost of a Santa Fe Sport Turbo All Wheel Drive with similar options comes in around $34,998. This is not a cheap vehicle, and in my video review I had thought the cost was lower, around $30,000.

With that in mind, the Santa Fe Sport slots itself against vehicles such as the Toyota Rav4, Honda CRV, BMW X1, and Ford Escape. While the Ford Escape isn’t bad, it’s hardly exciting, the RAV4 is an excellent vehicle and the BMW X1 is quite phenomenal. In terms of appearance, I feel as if the Hyundai holds itself up very well in this class, and handling also is a very nice strong suit. However, that’s right about where my praise ends.

Driving Impressions

Apologies for audio quality. Here’s my first video review

As I just mentioned, the handling of the Santa Fe Sport was definitely one of the strongest assets I had found. Body roll was rather minimal, steering was rather quick and responsive, but lacked ANY feedback whatsoever. Steering weight in Sport mode was decently weighted, albeit a little light for my liking. The brakes were extremely capable of scrubbing speed very well, and the pedal even felt very nice.

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The issue is with the transmission, I really believe it is almost entirely to blame. Shifts are so slow I could time them with a sun dial, and when you kick it down in automatic mode, it’ll take a moment to drop a few gears. More annoyingly, when you’ve aged an entire year waiting on the automatic downshift, the transmission will stay in the lower gear weeks after you’ve released the throttle. The only remedy is to manually shift back into higher gear, otherwise it will take a calendar year to do it itself. Not only is this insanely annoying, but it’s also not ideal for fuel economy either.

Once you’ve grown to resent the tragedy that is the Santa Fe Sport’s autotragic transmission, you’ll soon find a new area of hate, the lack of passing power. 240 horsepower isn’t bad by any means, but being a 3800 pound SUV with a shit transmission doesn’t make a good case for performance. 0-60 comes in about seven and a half seconds, and after sixty the engine feels like it’s laboring to pull much faster.

Fuel economy was pretty good all things considered, with mixed driving I had averaged over 25 miles per gallon. Unfortunately it doesn’t make up for the lethargic snail acceleration or the rage inducing automatic transmission.

Features And Equipment

As you can see from my large trucker GPS, this Santa Fe didn’t come equipped with factory NAV.

This area is both embarrassing and maddening. Hill descent control, differential locker, drive mode selectors, those are some pretty spiffy options. This Santa Fe Sport has them. Know what else it has? About 11 blank buttons and switches throughout the interior.

Ouch

The above picture is just to the left of the steering wheel. This isn’t counting buttons missing in the center stack, or worse yet... The four blank buttons around the shifter.

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This vehicle lacks navigation, which should be standard on any respectable vehicle. The backup camera has the worst resolution of any back up camera I have ever seen. Watch my video review above and you’ll quickly find that I’m not being dramatic.

Blind spot assist? Doesn’t have it, although it could use it because there are numerous blind spots in the OEM mirrors.

Apple Car Play or Android (whatever it is called for Android) app support? Nope. Doesn’t have that either. Now, I should mention, nav and smart phone support is optional. At this price point, it should be standard. Just saying.

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The seats, they’re manually adjusted. Also, they’re not heated. Oh, there’s no paddle shifters either. In other words, this thing is straight out of 2013 in the equipment department.

Quality

No question, I feel the quality is there. The interior materials feel nice, and nothing squeaked or rattled regardless of road quality. Ride quality was very good, and wind and tire noise was acceptable. However, the noise in the rain was far louder than some other vehicles I’ve driven. The Dodge Durango for example, was far more isolated from rain noise and outside environmental noises.

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With that being said, the paint quality looked very good, panel gaps were very uniform and interior panel gaps looked very good. I have no doubt that the Santa Fe Sport will remain reliable and comfortable for years to come.

Comfort And Usability

The Santa Fe Sport has 35 cubic feet of rear cargo space with the rear seats in their normal position, and 72 cubic feet with the rear seats folded down. That’s more than the Ford Edge, Jeep Grand Cherokee, and Even the Volkswagen Touareg! The rear seat space is quite generous, I have no doubt you could fit three average sized adults in the rear seat. The fuel economy I averaged leads me to believe that this is one of the most efficient SUVs out there with this type of cargo capacity.

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In terms of general usability, the Hyundai makes a very compelling case for ownership. This brings me to my next and final point:

Should I Buy It?

I don’t know how to answer this. The Santa Fe Sport is handsome, the interior is of rather high quality, it’s comfortable to drive and very spacious. The initial quality is indeed there, I would vouch for that.

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However, features are lacking unless you want to dig deep into your pocketbook. The driving experience isn’t the worst in the world, but it’s fairly close. You could get a nicely appointed Durango GT or Edge Ecoboost that offer a far more entertaining driving experience for around the same cost.

I’ll throw this out there. If you’re a car enthusiast that likes to drive and have fun, this is NOT the vehicle for you. However, if you haul your kids to school, make normal errands to the coffee shop and just use a vehicle as an appliance, I believe the Santa Fe Sport is a very good purchase. All Wheel Drive, good fuel economy and generous space makes this one of the strongest values around.

Unfortunately, the driving experience doesn’t match the lofty price tag. Better luck next time Hyundai.